The Leprechaun: A Character From Irish Folklore
If you have ever celebrated St. Patrick's Day in France or Ireland, you probably know the leprechaun, this character straight out of Irish legends! This colorful fairy creature has inspired many stories and legends. Here are 5 things to know about him.
1- He lives in hidden places
According to Irish mythology, the leprechaun is a small leprechaun whose height does not exceed 90 cm. The first mention of this character is in a book, the Lebor Gabála Érenn, better known by the English name The Book of Invasions.
This collection of poems and mythological stories from medieval times tells the story of Ireland from the creation of the world to the Middle Ages. This text relates that the leprechauns are the descendants of fantastic creatures who tried to conquer Ireland with the help of druids with great powers.
After the victory of the Gaelic people, the humans signed a peace agreement with the magical creatures. Humans would rule the Earth, while the magical creatures could rule 'the buried part of the world', in the hidden places, in the forest or under the earth. According to legend, this is where the leprechauns continue to live, hiding in the bushes and gullies.
2- There are only male leprechauns
The second thing to know about the leprechaun is that it has no female equivalent. Much to the displeasure of feminists a few days before International Women's Rights Day, there are only male leprechauns!
In Irish folklore, this leprechaun is depicted as a stocky being, dressed in green, with a top hat and a cobbler's apron. If you come across this mischievous leprechaun, you'll also recognize him by his red beard, pipe and buckled shoes... But beware: he is known for his bad temper!
3- He is known for his bad temper
If Irish legends are to be believed, the leprechaun is not a nice character. The Irish description of him is not exactly flattering. They tell about him that he is lonely, grumpy, stingy and unwelcoming to people.
According to another legend, this magical creature was born from the union of a human and a spirit, so he would be rejected by both worlds. Perhaps this justifies his legendary bad temper and his tendency to abuse dudeens, a whiskey-like liquor!
Despite their reputation for stinginess, leprechauns would be grateful to humans who are generous to them. In Irish folklore, it is said that these leprechauns do not hesitate to offer their homemade whiskey as a token of thanks. Unfortunately, it is difficult for men to follow them because they are good drinkers!
4- He works as a shoemaker and banker
The leprechaun, depicted with an apron, is also described as an excellent shoemaker. But this is not his only function in Irish mythology.
According to several legends, he is said to be the banker of the little people (the humanoid magical creatures) and the keeper of cauldrons filled with gold coins! His role as a fearsome banker would explain in part why he is suspicious of humans. He wants to protect his treasures from the greed of humans, who he knows are stupid and greedy for wealth...
Folklore also says that he keeps a shilling and a gold coin in two leather purses for bribes. But be careful if you catch one and he promises you a fortune in exchange for his freedom: don't take your eyes off him! This fast little goblin could slip through your fingers at the drop of a hat!
5- It has become a symbol of Ireland
The Irish love this little character from local folklore so much that they dress up as leprechauns for their national holiday, St. Patrick's Day celebrated on March 17!
This grumpy leprechaun is part of the symbols of the country in the same way as the harp, the shamrock or the sheep. That's why, in St. Patrick's Day parades in Dublin or elsewhere, you'll come across countless Irishmen in green suits, wearing top hats, booties, ginger beards and carrying cauldrons full of gold coins.
This character is so popular in Ireland that he also appears in many TV shows or movies, including horror films. In a less scary genre, a museum is dedicated to leprechauns in the heart of Dublin: The National Leprechaun Museum!